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Retail sales start to get perky, if only cautiously

As consumers continue to ease their grip on their wallets, retail sales perked up by 0.6 percent in August, the Commerce Department reported, improving on a 0.5 percent gain put up the month before.

August sales increased by 5.3 percent over year-before levels.

Once highly volatile auto sales are pulled out of the equation, retail sales ticked up at an even faster pace, by 0.7 percent. Car sales improved by 0.5 percent, recovering from a 0.1 percent dip the prior month. And among the retail channels of distribution tracked each month by HTT, winners outnumbered losers by a margin of three to one, with nine out of the 12 posting gains, including furniture and home furnishings stores, where sales improved by 0.7 percent, besting a smaller June increase of 0.5 percent.

Another home-related category, electronics and appliances, was one of the month's strongest performers, with a hefty 1.6 percent increase, bounding back from a small 0.1 percent decline the previous month. Sales in that core home goods channel rose by 7.4 percent over 2002 levels, easily outperforming the gain in overall U.S. retail sales.

Sales at department stores and discounters edged up by 0.4 percent, improving on a more modest gain of 0.2 percent in July

Retail Sales in August (by channel)

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce
Winners
Gas stations +2.7%
Electronics & appliance stores 1.6
Sporting goods, hobby, books & music 1.5
Restaurants & bars 1.4
Furniture & home furnishings 0.7
Car dealers 0.5
Department stores & discounters 0.4
Grocery stores 0.3
Health & personal care stores 0.3
Losers
Clothing & accessories stores -1.4%
Non-store retailers 0.5
Building material & garden supplies 0.2


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